We probably should have seen this coming. This is a lesson that sports fans have to learn over and over again, yet they always seem to forget it. Contending NFL teams normally have a few year window to stay competitive before they start to fall off. The truly great teams have longer runs of success(see: the 2000’s/2010’s Patriots), but most fall off after a few years. This is where the Seahawks are. They are probably done being true contenders barring some miraculous turn around.

This decline happens for a multitude of reasons. Normally, especially in a physical sport like football, the wear and tear of playing all of those extra games adds up after playing a full season plus two or three additional games each year. The offseason starts later than nearly all other teams, and your players are often more banged up. Last year, nearly all of the legion of boom was recovering from some injury suffered in either the NFC title game or the Super Bowl. The extra games take a toll on teams, even if it is not obvious.

Another reason great teams start to decline, and Seattle has been a great team over the last few years, is that teams have better strategies to beat them. There is plenty of tape on the vaunted legion of boom, and teams are starting to devise better game plans for attacking the Seattle defense. Carolina had a decent plan on Sunday, and two of their better receivers are Jericho Cotchery and Ted Ginn jr(no offense to those guys, but they have no business being top WRs on their team). People realized that Sherman mainly plays on one side of the field, which allowed them to move their best WR all over the field so he would not be covered by Sherman. Teams have become better at attacking the Seattle defense.

Also, key players are not retained due to the amount of money committed to the stars. The Seahawks have handed big money deals to Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor(we will come back to this in a minute), Bobby Wagner, Russell Wilson, and Marshawn Lynch. Having that many big money players means that key depth players will eventually be expendable. Max Unger was shipped out this offseason, and he was a big part of their great running attack. Russell Okung will be due his money soon, and it will be interesting to see how the Seahawks handle that situation. Guys like Michael Bennett, who have played very well for Seattle, will most likely go elsewhere because the Seahawks do not have the money to retain him.

The other problem with this is that the Seahawks have to rely on younger guys that they draft to be ready to step into a starting role pretty soon. While the Seahawks were once heralded as drafting geniuses, there are different challenges now. They are consistently handed picks at the end of rounds, instead of in the middle of rounds. This makes it even harder to get the specific players that they want. Also being consistently good at drafting great young talent is hard to do. Only the best of organizations can constantly do it. If an organization like Seattle has one great draft and hits on one or two late round picks, they have great success and are heralded as geniuses. But it is not often that you see teams that are able to replicate this success again. Seattle’s early season struggles so far this season I think show the drop off in their drafting from the early 2010’s to now.

Finally, all of these issues, combined with the various personalities in the locker room eventually will cause trouble. Bill Simmons was initially cautious to say it in his latest podcast but I am not. Kam Chancellor was a little selfish in holding out. Now, I am sure that there are some who would say that football is a dangerous game and guys should make their money while they can, and that the players deserve more than what they get. And all of that is fine… except there is just one thing that is bothering me: Is Kam worth more than his current salary? Of course, he is one of the best safeties in the league. A guy who often strikes fear in any receivers heart when they cross the middle. But here is the thing: A contract is a bet on future performance. When Kam signed his contract, he was not getting paid based on solely on his current production, but he was mainly getting paid based on potential production. The fact that he was fine taking a deal, then is going to get upset with multiple years left on his deal is ridiculous. If anyone has a good case for getting a reconstructed deal, its Antonio Brown. He has outperformed his current deal by far. However, when the Steelers said they would not redo his deal with so many years left on it, Brown did the right thing and showed up to camp. He basically said that he signed that deal, and that he had to honor the commitment to the Steelers franchise. That is what Kam did this summer, he went back on the commitment that he made to the Seattle organization. NOw it may have had a potentially irreversible impact on their season and future.

The Seahawks are at the point of their window where the window is probably closing, but it is nowhere near shut yet. This year could be a down year, but they could for sure rebound and looks strong next year. The point is that, we have most likely seen the last of the Seahawks as an elite team in the league. That is nothing to be ashamed of, after capturing one championship and coming very close to a second. This is just what happens in sports, and it will almost assuredly happen to the team that takes over for Seattle.

Anyway, looking back at Week 6, and it seemed a little nutty. I went 9-5 with my picks last week, and also hit my eliminator, bringing my yearly totals to 59-32, and 5-1 in eliminator(4-1 with my 5 best bet. I think I will start picking my 5 best eliminator picks now, with a little bit of a riskier pick each week). I also went 2-4 in my fantasy leagues this week. Not that anyone cares, but this year has been quite a strange fantasy year for me. Now onto why you’re really here: the Power rankings:

1. New England Patriots(previous: 1)

No one remembers that I said that the Patriots would beat the Colts by 20 right? Oh you do? Well that’s fine, it isn’t like I was the only one who thought that the Pats would come out and destroy the Colts so I am not that mad. Tom Brady is still pretty good, and they are still out to seek revenge against the NFL. It will be very hard to have this Pats team removed from the top spot this season.

2. Arizona Cardinals(previous: 2)

It is going to be hard for me to not think that the Cardinals are arguably the most complete team in the NFL, let alone a loss to a Steelers team who actually might be decent. As of writing this, the Cardinals had the third best offensive and defensive DVOA in the NFL(through week 5). They also have to play the league’s 7th hardest schedule going forward according to football outsiders. We will find a lot about this Arizona team in their remaining ten games I think this Cardinals team is legitimately the best team in the NFC, and I am sticking by them.

Cincinnati Bengals(previous:3)

The Bengals are starting to have even the most pessimistic of Cincy fans starting to believe this team might be good. A week after beating Seattle, the Bengals dispatched of the Bills this week, marking consecutive weeks where they beat teams who I consider to be solid teams. Dalton is continuing his stellar season. They still have to play games against the Steelers(2x), Broncos and Cardinals so the Bengals still have a long way to go before they can definitively prove that they are an elite team this season.

4. Green Bay Packers(previous:4)

Hey did anyone notice that the Packers moved to 6-0 Sunday! Yeah everyone did, but what they ignored was the fact that they allowed Philip Rivers to throw for 503 yards. Dear Packers secondary, you were  ranked top in passing defense DVOA before the game… WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?!?!?! Also, can someone help me find Eddie Lacy? He has been missing for like four weeks now. This team still has Aaron Rodgers, and that is enough to keep them here.

5. Denver Broncos(previous:5)

I feel for whomever gets to sit down with the qbs(probably the qbs coach) and say: “Hey Peyton what the hell happened here? Like that was a bad int. He should not be benched, as his quick 75 yard TD throw to Emmanuel Sanders proved, but man this version of Peyton is bad. The good news? If Peyton can just play average, this team could actually be a rival to the Pats with the way that this defense is playing. If Peyton has another bad game, the Broncos could tumble down the rankings, but that wouldn’t happen until after they return from bye.

6. Carolina Panthers(previous: 8)

Still being one of the five unbeaten, combined with beating Seattle has to count for something for the Panthers right… Right? Well it does. They got Luke Kuechly back and his presence was instantly felt. Cam Newton continued to show why he is an MVP candidate. I am worried that this team will struggle playing teams  like the Cardinals or Packers, but this team should compete for the NFC South title.

7. Atlanta Falcons(previous: 7)

Yes they lost to the Saints, but it was Thursday Night Football. Always take what you see on TNF with a grain of salt. This Falcons team might have the best RB-WR in the NFL right now with Freeman/Julio. That combo has helped Matt Ryan out a lot this year. Their defense continues to be average, although I would like to see a little bit of a rebound this week after allowing over 30 points to the Saints. This Falcons team is the only challenge to the Panthers in the NFC South(they are also my pick to win the south still).

8. New York Jets(previous: NR)

The Jets look like they could be a team that benefits this year from the AFC being so weak, but I have a sneaky feeling they could actually be a decent team. Their game this Sunday against the Patriots will go a long way to telling fans just how good the Jets will be this year. They rank in the top five for both rushing and passing defensive dvoa. Also they finally have some decent weapons on offense for whomever is their starter at qb to work with. Combine that with a solid ground game with Chris Ivory, and this Jets team could end up getting a wild card berth in the AFC.

9. Pittsburgh Steelers(previous: 10)

The Steelers offense looked pretty good on Sunday, and that was with a combo of Michael Vick and Landry Jones starting at QB. Imagine what this team will look like once Big Ben is back out there playing. I will tell you what it will look like, it will look even better because Ben will actually look for Antonio Brown a lot. LeVeon Bell has looked pretty darn good since returning from suspension, and now that the Steelers have Martavis Bryant, their offense should be going at full strength. Their defense, ranked 15th in DVOA through five weeks, has done enough to help the Steelers win games. Really, this is all you need to compete in the NFL. This Steelers team should be able to make a run at a playoff berth despite playing in the weak AFC.

10. St. Louis Rams(previous: 9)

The Rams drop a spot just because of how good the Steelers looked with Landry Jones. But the Rams are nothing to forget about in the NFC. They have a great defense, with a top ten rushing and passing defense according to DVOA. Oh also, Todd Gurley could be one of the best running backs in the league after just a few games as a pro. THe only problem is that their passing game is really not that great. They rank 31st in passing yards per game, something that has probably greatly helped contribute to them ranking 31st in points scored per game. This Rams team needs to develop a more potent passing attack before it will go anywhere in the playoffs, but this is a Rams team that could sneak into a playoff spot.

Next up: Seattle, Buffalo, Indy, Philly, Giants, and Dallas. These are in no particular order.

Final NFL thoughts for the week:

  1. The AFc only has 5 teams with a record above .500, as does the NFC. The AFC has two teams with .500 records, the NFC has two as well.
  2. The total records of all of the AFC teams is 45-46, while the combined records of the NFC teams is 46-46. I came into the year thinking the NFC was the better conference, and so far, there really is not any great proof of that.
  3. So the Ravens are currently in contention for the top pick in the draft. This is a team I thought would make the AFC title game, and many others thoughts would make it to the Super Bowl. Disappointing season so far is the least that can be said.
  4. Perhaps the Browns should not draft a qb in the early rounds again as some reports suggest they could be considering this week after the latest Manziel arrest. They have drafted Weeden and Manziel in the first round of drafts the last few years and that has clearly worked out well for Cleveland. They most likely won’t be able to get their hands on Jared Goff, and could be picking too early for Cook/Hackenburg. Why reach for someone like Cardale Jones. Do the right thing Cleveland and don’t reach for a qb this spring!
  5. Are the Eagles good, or are they not? For nearly all of the teams in the NFL I could at least form an opinion and defend it about whether a team is good or not. The Eagles are one of the couple that I have no idea if they are good, or if their last few weeks is just a mirage.

My non-NFL thoughts for the week:

  1. Good for J.T. Barrett, who was named OSU’s starting QB this Tuesday. He waited his turn without ever once bad-mouthing Cardale. That is not his style. There is a reason why he was named a sophomore captain. Hopefully Cardale will be just as supportive of JT as he tries to lead the Buckeyes to a second straight championship.
  2. Dear Cubs fans: take a deep breath and enjoy the ride. That may be easy for me to say since I am not a Cubs fan, but this is something special that should be enjoyed. Yes you can be stressed out during the game, but this is a very special moment for Cubs baseball no matter how they do in the remainder of the NLCS. Enjoy the ride.
  3. Should anyone really be all that shocked by the Louisville recruiting scandal? I, for one, am not. In fact something tells me this is happening at more schools than Louisville. College football and basketball have so much money involved in them, that anything a school can do to get a recruiting advantage it will consider doing it. As long as if it isn’t super illegal, it is probably being done by at least a few big schools. This scandal should not shock anyone.
  4. As the NBA season draws nearer, it is shocking to me how little respect the Warriors are getting. They are returning all of their core essentially besides David Lee. Golden State could definitely fall off due to some poor injury luck, but it is just as likely to impact the Warriors as it is some of their top contenders. I just think when people are considering their title picks, the Warriors should get a little more love.
  5. Finally, why are you doing this D-Rose. He has had an interesting last few months. There are continued rumors that him and Jimmy Butler really don’t have a great relationship. Then came his quotes about free agency were not the most favorable. I like some Bulls fans, should feel at least a little hurt that Rose is already talking about free agency. There has been a large chunk of Bulls fan who has had his back for each and every injury and setback. He is basically turning his back on the Bulls fans that had his. Please stay focused on this season Derrick, lets beat LeBron at least once in the playoffs with you healthy. Chicago would love you forgive you forever if you could do that.

Ted Van Green(@TVG_5)

Spark Sports NFL Analyst

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